Washington Post

Researchers at George Washington University are testing two low-cost vaccines to prevent human hookworm infection. Globally, hookworm affects more than half a billion people worldwide, causing malnutrition and stunting in some of the world's poorest populations.

However, the trials require healthy adult volunteers to allow human hookworm larvae to burrow beneath their skin. So far less than ten participants have signed up to be in the second group of volunteers.

"'I tried my best to explain to people,' why they should volunteer, said Anna Markowitz, who has almost completed her master’s degree in public health at GW and stepped up to take part in the study. 'But when you tell them that you’re in a clinical trial in which you inoculate yourself with parasites that will suck on your blood through your intestines, people aren’t too interested.'

"It’s a common problem for scientists: They have questions. They have ideas – some of them brilliant. But when it comes time to test those ideas out in the real world, people just aren’t breaking down the doors to be their guinea pigs.

"'I think most people in the community know that researchers greatly benefit from monetary donations,' said Jennifer Coughlin, an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who helps develop molecular imaging techniques to study brain disease. 'But it is equally important that we not only study diseased participants but study healthy participants so that we have a comparative cohort.'"


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